Three weeks into Vine’s release, and the Twitter-backed app has shown that it has all the ingredients to be a smash hit. But the hard work is far from over. Simply Zesty community manager Aidan Coughlan suggests five changes Vine needs to introduce if it is to make its mark in the ruthless social marketplace.
Things are looking good for Vine. The numbers are rising, the celeb trendsetters are getting involved and users are finding ways to cram more creativity into those six-second clips than anyone thought possible. Or, to look at it another way: you know you’re doing something right when you can survive a porn scandal less than a fortnight into your existence.
And yet, there’s still plenty to do.
For those who don’t know, Vine is an app that allows users to record GIF-like videos of up to six seconds in length and post them to Twitter or Facebook, as well as an independent social network similar to that of Instagram.
We spoke last month about the broader challenges it must overcome if it’s to become a part of the social media canon along with the ‘Big Three’ services listed above. We asked whether there is an appetite for such a service, how it will overcome its broader technical challenges, and where it fits into the grand scheme of things; in short, do people actually want Vine?
But, for now, let’s suppose they do. Let’s suppose that Vine has tapped into a very cosy niche, and its short, snappy videos are capitalising on a perfect storm of social media trends – and there are a few reasons to believe this is the case.
Where It's Going Right
For one, GIFs have been steadily growing in popularity ever since download speeds made them practical. Vine videos are not GIFs, but they don’t tend to rely heavily upon audio – and many are created in a looped, hypnotic fashion. Basically, Vine’s product comes ready-made in a form familiar to millions upon millions of internet users. Twitter never had that luxury.
For another, it’s a highly economical app. What’s the primary currency on social media spaces? Not bandwidth, nor creativity, but attention. Vine requires very little in that regard, but it delivers a lot. There’s no need for desperate ‘WATCH ME!’ pleas, or excruciating optimisation, as YouTube videos will demand – with Vine, if people see the video, they will watch the video.
Finally, the videomaking process is both unique and enjoyable. The hold-to-record mechanism is a masterstroke, making stop-motion and time-lapse videos possible to those who wouldn’t know a video camera from a hot air balloon. The results may not always be technically amazing – but they will be fun to make, challenging to master and entertaining to watch.
So what’s the problem? Well, Vine has a window of opportunity in which it can strike while the publicity is hot. It’s been one of the most talked-about apps over the last few weeks, and curious users are flocking in their thousands to download it and see what the fuss is about. What a shame, then, the app is suffering from a few basic usability oversights that will leave newcomers rather cold.
Just ask the bands who send unfinished demos to the press – you only get one chance to make a good impression, and if you mess it up the fickle audience shall not afford you a second shot. So here are five things Vine need to look at urgently, to make sure they make the most of its time in the sun.
Separate (Or No) Audio
One of the wonderful things about Vine, as we mentioned above, is the hold-to-record mechanism that allows for easy stop-motion and time-lapse videos. But while that’s fine in visual terms, it’s a different story when it comes to audio – the choppy sounds ruin the effect and provide a jarring reminder that this cake is not, in fact, disappearing of its own accord. A bit like seeing the elastic on Santa’s fake beard, really.
Given that so many videos are built to be purely visual, why not allow an option for videomakers to switch off sound altogether – or, better again, record a simple, separate soundtrack?
Optimise For Stop-Motion
A colleague here at Simply Zesty wanted to make what should have been the ideal Vine clip: he was going to put a flower in a vase, then create a frame-by-frame video as it grew and bloomed over the coming days. But this endeavour of manliness was cruelly cut short by Vine’s lack of a save-and-return feature – once he exited the video, his opening frame was consigned to the trashcan.
Going back to stop motion, and how this has already become one of the app’s most popular uses, it could really stand to up its game in this department. A drafts folder, the option to view progress as you shoot and a framing grid would all be welcome additions – or, if we were to be really spoiled, a translucent ‘onion skin’ view so that you can make sure your frames stay somewhat steady.
We don’t need Vine to be a piece of high-end editing software, but now that we know what it’s going to be used for, it would be nice to see it optimised for that purpose.
I live five minutes’ walk from Simply Zesty’s office, so on my way into work I decided to make a timelapse account of my journey (That’s right; the only film more hotly anticipated than the Hobbit’s second instalment. So I stuck on my music, opened up my app and... silence. For some reason – perhaps due to its overzealous and unjustified attachment to audio – Vine insists that you can’t possibly listen to music and film at the same time, and mutes the music player upon opening. Unnecessary and silly; get rid of this feature and let users use their eyes.
Easier Access To Record
What’s the single most vital button within a videomaking app? The record button, of course. So why, then, does Vine do its level best to keep that button concealed from users? It’s only accessible from the Home tab, which is one of four tabs within the app, and even then it’s quite subtly placed. Vine needs to take a leaf out of Instagram’s book, and make sure that button is universally visible and accessible.
A Web Presence
At the moment, Vine doesn’t have a website for desktop users – and no matter how far along we are in the mobile revolution, a complete omission of desktop is a very risky move. Thankfully we’re going to put our money where our mouth is in that regard. Tomorrow we’re going to unveil our very own proposed design for Vine’s desktop website.
Watch this space.